Featured speakers: Danny Burstein from Cabaret, Jarrod Spector from Beautiful, Andy Karl from Rocky, Joshua Henry from VioletJames Monroe Iglehart from Aladdin (winner), Lena Hall from Hedwig and the Angry Inch (winner), and Nick Cordero from Bullets Over Broadway.

Some of 68th annual Tony Awards winners and nominees shared their advice to actors with the American Theatre Wing earlier this month. One of the strong collective takeaways is for actors to “give it your all.” Fifth on the panel is James Monroe Iglehart who won Best Performance for his featured role as the Genie in Disney’s musical Aladdin; he encourages actors to expand on their skill set: “So if you’re a dancer, learn to act; if you’re a singer, learn to dance and learn to act; learn all you can about this business, learn about voice overs, learn about anything you can to make a living at this because it’s not about being a star, it’s about making a living.”

james-monroe-iglehart-headshot-acting-advice.jpgIn the Tony Awards press room just after winning, James was asked what advice he would have given to his younger self. He replied, “You know what? To be honest, I would tell him to stop complaining and to study harder. Because I did not study as hard as I could have, I went through some hills and valleys I probably wouldn’t of had to.” And once again, a reporter asked what tip he would give to aspiring actors. He answered:

“I would tell them to dream big and work hard. It doesn’t matter what size you are, it doesn’t matter what color you are, it doesn’t matter what sex you are…work hard. And what I mean by ‘work hard,’ I don’t mean just, oh, get a dance class, I mean work hard. Be nice. Be nice to people. Listen to the older actors who have come before you. They will teach you how to do what you are doing. And act as much as you can. Act everywhere whether it be in the church or the community theater or college–wherever. Work your butt off. And…dream as big as you can.”

Over the years, other actors have been asked to reflect upon what advice they’d like to give to their younger selves. Here are some responses:

Phylicia Rashad‘s letter to her 21-year-old self included, “What’s in front of you is a whole world of experiences beyond your imagination. Put yourself, and your growth and development first.”

Jennifer Lopez’s suggestions to her 20-year-old self included, “I would tell her to follow her gut because everything always works out in the end.”

Melanie Griffith once tweeted advice she’d give to her younger self about work-life balance: “Take your time!!!!”

Oprah Winfrey‘s words to her 19-year-old self included, “That will be your single greatest gift: knowing there is a power greater than yourself and trusting that Force to guide you….knowing there is a ‘high calling’ is what will sustain and fulfill you….Even then you understood that success was a process and that moving with the flow of life and not against it would be your greatest achievement.”

So, how about you? After all you’ve been through, what sage career advice would you give to your younger self–or others? Please share!